Fall Quarterly – Sky (November 2013 / 13.22)
Artist, Christopher Woods is a writer, teacher, and photographer who lives in Houston and Chappell Hill, Texas. His photo essays have appeared in Public Republic, Glasgow Review, and Narrative Magazine. His photography can be seen in his gallery.
For when the Earl called upon its maker,
the orrery moved, cranked by human hand,
and around the solar globe circled smaller worlds.
I dreamed I danced beneath familiar constellations,
my face upturned to the star-arranged sky,
and left the field when I became aware
others did not see Orion or the Bear.
The orrery awaited me indoors, the Sun all gold,
the Earth a lustrous lapis, Mars a ruby,
Jupiter a spill of bright enamels cloisoneé
to porcelain. Uranus and Neptune were shades
of jade, Mercury onyx, Venus opal of many veils,
Saturn enamel as well with silver rings.
Pluto moved farthest from the gold, a cold chip
of diamond. The orrery of my dream far outshone
the old Earl’s whose commission first called down
the spheres into mortal hands. And mine was different
also in this: ‘round lapis Earth turned a Moon of pearl,
which, though bound by golden wire to a golden Sun,
yet kept always one side turned into shadow away.
L. S. Bassen, a 2011 Finalist Flannery O’Connor Fiction Award, is editor of Prick of the Spindle, reviewer for Horse Less Press, Small Beer Press, Melusine, New Pages, and Galatea Resurrects. Her works have been published in Kenyon Review, American Scholar, Minnetonka, and Persimmontree. She was the 2009 winner of the Atlantic Pacific press Drama Prize.
Dirty Little Clouds
Toby finished twisting a joint and said, “The girls are broke, but Erin said if we buy a gram, they’ll barter for it.”
“So they’re going to fuck us for H?” I was curled on the couch with a fleece blanket wrapped around my shoulders, weathering the chills and cold sweats. I stared out the window of Toby’s small apartment at the wind and rain picking up and riffling through the leaves like a shaky hand.
“They’re bringing a kit,” he said and sparked the jay.
While I hadn’t tried booting—I’m not wild about needles—it seemed like the logical next step after months of snorting and smoking. Unemployed, with the divorce papers filed and my kids no longer wanting to see me, I had arrived at a dangerous place where apathy performed amputations.
I shivered, watching the rain and waiting from Toby to pass me the joint. “How old is her friend?” I asked.
“Twenty or twenty-one. Same age as Erin,” he said. My ex-wife had recently started dating the owner of the bar where I spent the last five years fucking up my marriage. The thought of her having sex with Tommy, moaning the same low song I considered our own, broke through my skin like a puncture wound.
I said, “So we hold, and they pay us with pussy? How is that different from prostitution?”
“Quit being such a fucking philosopher,” Toby said and finally passed me the joint.
“Do we have to go pick it up?”
“I have it here. It’s in top drawer of my dresser.”
Like kindle going up, the heat from the drawer in Toby’s bedroom began to seep through the apartment. I tossed off the blanket. “You have it here?”
“No way, Nick. We have to wait. I promised them.”
Smoke streamed from the bedroom—dirty little clouds haunting my periphery. “We could just take the edge off, right?”
Toby shook his head and walked into the kitchen and returned with a small sheet of aluminum foil. “Just a little,” he said. “To take the edge off.”
I fell back on Toby’s bed onto my own dirty cloud. As I stared at the bedroom ceiling, my wife straddled Tommy on top of another dirty cloud beside me, and my children played a board game on their own cloud beside them. Toby sat on the edge of the bed, smoking the the brownish powder off the strip of foil through a hollowed out pen.
Someone knocked at the door, followed by the muted sound of girls giggling. Toby fell back and closed his eyes. “We’re gone!”
The knocking continued, and we waited, and we waited to die with indignity on our dirty little clouds, in that silly fire we kept stoking.
Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire. He is the author of three collections of poetry—Not So Profound (Green Bean Press, 2003), Teaching Metaphors (Sunnyoutside Press, 2007), and After the Honeymoon (Sunnyoutside Press, 2009)—a collection of short stories, Frostbite (GBP, 2002), and several chapbooks of fiction and poetry. A chapbook of short prose pieces titled Hangover Breakfasts was published by Bottle of Smoke Press in 2012, and Marginalia Publishing recently released a novella titled Some Sort of Ugly. For more information, visit his website.
All This Talk
Why all this talk of sky
all this looking upwards
the proverbial straining of the neck
all this murmur of sacred shades of blue
why all the reaching up
for Orion and the repentant moon
the stories that lie like throw pillows
atop faded clouds
the light years of your distant truth
filtering down to earth
where you take a shower in a dark room
where you wash dusk
from your hair
the pockets of ancient azure
of your morning rage
the thud of the body
when it falls
it is the rich, steadfast ground
that receives you after you fall
until someone finds you
it is the sacrament of salt and soil
that make a place
in the bent blades of grass
Connie Post served as Poet Laureate of Livermore, California 2005 to 2009. Her work has appeared in Calyx, Kalliope, Cold Mountain Review, Crab Creek Review, Comstock Review, Slipstream, Pirene’s Fountain, Barnwood International, The Pedestal Magazine, and Arsenic Lobster, She won the 2009 Caesura Poetry Award. Her Most recent chapbook And When the Sun Drops won the Fall 2012 Editors Choice award.
Alicia Marie Lawrence
Outside the Mandala Window
When I look out the mandala window, I see Frei standing across the city from me.
His eyes are downcast, the way they always were when he looked at me, as if he wasn’t sure of the risk of taking my side. His shade, though, seems preoccupied, as though he is the part of me that wonders where Frei’s true self is. When I wave, my palms are met by rooftops sharp with shattered shingles. Frei shies, yet is humming. When I reach toward him, I prick my finger on a weathervane.
Circling hawks are tiny dark specs high above, harkening rain.
Frei and I are both atop storm clouds, and as I discover, we are both asleep.
I anticipate that lightning will snap the clouds apart like shredded cotton, so that Frei and I will tumble down rungs of raindrops. I will cling to starlight and the storm. Frei will be lost from grasp to an unending pitch black sky.
I watch Frei count the stars as they float past, and do not remember knowing that he knew how to do this. Then I lean toward him to tell him the direction that time is blowing us in. He notices me but looks puzzled, as if the clouds we are resting on have also covered his eyes and he cannot see my face. He asks how long we’ve been here, and which one am I. I don’t laugh. I don’t hesitate.
“Haven’t you answered the second question with the first?” I say gently, and then add even quieter, “Long enough to forget—Frei, there is only one person that I could be.”
Frei tells me, “As long as my eyes are closed, I know who you are.”
The clouds begin to break a little. Frei resumes peacefully counting stars.
“I can tell that you are sleeping,” one of us says.
I touch Frey’s shoulder and he doesn’t turn his head. Nor move away. And now, he smiles an inside smile that curls the corners of his mouth and betrays his veiled eyes. “I always knew,” he adds.
I withdraw my hand, and do not answer right away.
I withdraw into myself to consider what is meaningful in Frei’s admission, resounding as if to convey to me who I am. I pretend that we are awake, that he has invited me over and while I keep company on his living room couch, he throws his hat – whatever a hat may be, and wherever it may be thrown – on the coffee table, at the TV, past whoever it is that is in the way. We are not different to each other than usual in this sleep state, nor are we who we once thought we were. If we wake, we will be separate.
Frei dreams. I answer, “Your spell is deeper than mine,” and I tug at him and whisper a plea, “Wake up—.” My voice catches as the words leave my mouth.
Frei reaches his arms to calm the night above, and pulls two stars down from the sky. He dusts galaxies from their surfaces, restores them with furtive caring to shine. The stars are overlaid, one on top of the other, spun so that their pointed rays are staggered. Frei looks at me and his eyes have cleared. The stars fall from his fingertips into mine. They shatter into luminous, dust-fine pieces as they do.
And I fall.
I land in a chapel loft with the pieces of Frei’s stars falling around me, they lie in pools at my feet. I can see out of a mandala-shaped window. The geometric patterns of stained glass cast shifting tints to the colour of the sky outside.
Alicia Marie Lawrence graduated with an MA from the University of Victoria. She has had her poetry published in Umbrella Factory Magazine, Island Writer Magazine, ditch, The Acrobat, This Great Society, and As/Us Journal, and her illustrations can be found in past or upcoming issues of Branch Magazine, Holler Box Magazine, and Commas & Colons Literary Magazine.
The two worlds
There was the sky like a painting by Carolyn Miller—
and the darkness below
in which people swam home
with their car seats and dogs,
their grocery sacks
and bicycles, morning’s
light and hesitant happiness
tamped down into a heavier
familiarity with disappointment,
the heft of which, in itself,
was a kind of hope, the kind
that keeps one close to home.
Above, the lavender clouds continued to roam through the persimmon sea—
We watched them go, and then we fixed dinner.